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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Opportunity and Desire

One of Chuck Snyder’s readers shares a not-so-unusual problem:

“I believe the Spirit of God is upon me to teach the Word of God with love, accuracy, patience and discernment to a lost and hurting world and to all who hunger for the truth. Several years of schooling and formal study took place in order to prepare and to show myself approved. Now, in my home church, I am given every job and project under the sun to be responsible for, except ‘teaching the Word of God.’ ”

I hear this sort of thing all the time: “My church doesn’t let me use my spiritual gift.”

A person has a strong desire to play a very specific role in church life along with the conviction he or she possesses a God-given ability to do it exceptionally well. It may even be true. And yet the people of God make no room for their fellow believer to do the thing he or she “feels called” to do.

There are so many possibilities here that I’m bound to forget a few, but here are a few reasons I may not be getting the opportunities I’m looking for:
  1. My definition of “church” may be too small. Maybe I’m only thinking of things I can do in the church building during formal gatherings. The Body of Christ is an organic entity that grows and develops seven days a week, not an institution whose purview and effect are limited to official meetings. There are endless opportunities for service of all kinds outside the scheduled meetings of the church.
  2. My definition of “spiritual gift” may be unscriptural. Singing, acting, dancing (liturgically or otherwise), playing guitar and all manner of other things are useful skills in appropriate contexts. They are not listed in the word of God among the spiritual gifts he has given for the building up of his people. That doesn’t necessarily mean my opportunities for service will be strictly limited to demonstrably biblical areas, but if I find they are, I should be neither surprised nor offended.
  3. My estimation of my own abilities may be inaccurate. Timothy’s gift became evident when his elders “laid hands” on him. If I have a genuine spiritual gift, other people will notice and acknowledge it. If they don’t, there’s a solid chance I’m trying to bang a square peg into a round hole.
  4. I may be overlooking all sorts of opportunities to serve because they don’t involve a title or public acknowledgement.
  5. I may be waiting for somebody to ask me to serve when I should simply do it. Nobody should have to fire a starting gun to prompt us to exercise faith, help, serve, encourage, share or be merciful; all are commanded in the New Testament. And even gifts like teaching, leadership and administration can be exercised informally in appropriate situations.
  6. I may have a sphere of service in view that is anti-scriptural. This particular reader wants to teach “all who hunger for the truth”. As a woman, she needs to recognize this is not appropriate in gatherings of the church. She’s going to have to rethink her goals a bit.
  7. It may not be the Lord’s time yet. I may have character issues to work on before God’s people are prepared to “lay hands” on me for service.
  8. My gift may not be fully developed. In the case of Bible teaching, schooling and formal study are only a small part of that process. Maybe I should start a blog or work away at developing some other visible body of work to demonstrate I’m really able to do the things I think I’m equipped to do, even if only to myself. At very least it will help me grow spiritually and better understand the word of God.
  9. It may be my church’s problem.
That last one is not impossible, we must concede.

Chuck Snyder’s advice?
“I have found myself in this sort of situation in the past, and have simply moved on to another fellowship that encouraged my gifts. I would recommend you do the same.”
Not the worst counsel in the world. It’s certainly better to quietly move on than to cause problems where you are by complaining until you get what you think you deserve.

But here’s a thought: before you pack up and head for the hills, consider these other possibilities first. I suspect “I’m right and everyone else in my church is wrong” is a rare situation indeed.

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